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Are we, humans in the 21st century, experiencing a mass extinction of animals, plants, and insects? Scientists estimate that the current rate of extinction is about 1000 times the natural rate of .0001% per year. Given their estimate of 14 million species on earth, we are losing about 14,000 species a year (Miller & Spoolman, 2009). Holes are appearing in the fabric of the web of life faster than we can comprehend. Zoos are facing the choice of which species to try to save, leaving others such as the Mhorr gazelle to face extinction.
In traditional Native American cultures, “all my relations” include all forms of life: animals, plants, and insects, as well as all other humans. Losing one of these species to extinction is akin to losing a member of one’s family. From the perspective of deep ecology, all parts of the web of life are part of one’s self. Thus losing a species to extinction is akin to losing part of oneself. Losing a member of one’s family or losing a part of oneself is certainly a source of grief. Unacknowledged or repressed, this grief and its accompanying feelings such as anger can manifest as a stress response in the body, resulting in chronic disease conditions as described by Gabor Mate.